HOOVER, Ala. — All 14 SEC head coaches will descend on Hoover, Ala., this week to preview a season that’s sure to be filled with surprises.
Yet for all that’s unknown about the upcoming fall there’s one thing that can be counted on: At least one of these guys won’t be back for SEC Media Days next year.
There are two coaches making their Media Days debut this week — Kirby Smart with Georgia and Barry Odom with Missouri. Will Muschamp is also returns as South Carolina coach after appearing as Florida coach from 2011-14. The three new faces for this season is in line with the recent trend.
Not since 2006 has the same group showed up two consecutive years.
So which coaches are least likely to return next season?
1. Gus Malzahn Auburn
Most probably would expect LSU coach Les Miles to rank first on this list given that he almost got fired last year. But it seems reasonable to guess the backlash LSU got for how it handled Miles’ situation might scare off restless boosters from trying to push Miles out again. Plus, believe it or not, LSU has been a model of consistency; they’ve only had two coaches in the last 16 seasons.
Auburn — on the other hand — changes coaches like Kardashians change spouses.
Tommy Tuberville went undefeated in 2004 and won the SEC, but was gone after the 2008 season. His replacement — Gene Chizik — won the national championship in 2010, but was fired just two years after that.
Malzahn took over for Chizik in 2013 and surprised many by winning the league in his first season, but after 11 losses in the last two years … if Auburn doesn’t show drastic improvement this season, Malzahn’s fate — despite his early success — will be no different than his predecessors.
2. Les Miles LSU
There are plenty of reasons not to fire Miles, but it’s a good idea for him to beat Alabama on Nov. 5.
3. Dan Mullen Mississippi State
To listen to Mullen speak is to realize he sounds less like Mississippi than maybe anyone living in the Magnolia State.
His accent — earned while growing up in New Hampshire — seems to provide a clue that the South won’t be Mullen’s last coaching stop. He isn’t a threat to be fired at Mississippi State, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if life after former quarterback Dak Prescott motivates Mullen to look for a job a little easier than trying to win games in the SEC West with the division’s least-talented roster.
4. Nick Saban Alabama
This will be Saban’s 10th consecutive trip to SEC Media Days as Alabama coach, and his 15th total appearance at the event. That’s a little less than former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who made 15 appearances over 16 years from 1992-2008. And he may never reach Steve Spurrier’s 22 combined appearances as Florida and South Carolina coach.
Saban nonetheless can boast of quite a long tenure. It’s bound to end sometime, right?
Maybe this is the year Saban finally gets bored with winning national championships and decides to retire.
5. Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M
Sumlin’s team will play every coach ranked above him on this list, and if he doesn’t win at least one of those games he may very well be at the top of this list by season’s end.